No Doubt is back with a retro-new wave album called Push and Shove after a 10-year-hiatus. This week's cover story has the fab four from Anaheim talking about the challenges of making the album and more; here, “Settle Down” and “Don't Speak” director Sophie Muller shares the ups and downs of their 16-year-old relationship:
“We've worked together since 1996, unbelievably. I don't remember who got in touch with who, but I remember being sent the song “Just A Girl.” That didn't happen but then I got sent another track.
It was “Don't Speak,” and I remember thinking, “Aw man, they sent me the third single, it's obviously not going to be a hit.” It was a ballad, and I really liked the energy of “Just A Girl.” But someone had told me they were really amazing live and a great band, and I had to see them to believe them.
And in those days the only way to see them was through their video — and it was hard to tell what they were like. It's not like they had YouTube clips. So I asked to speak to someone, because I always like to speak to someone I'm making videos for when I'm going to be working for them. Gwen called me one night when I was slightly drunk and I told her, “I have to have a cup of tea,” so I tried to sober up and talked to her. And the next day, someone called and asked me to fly out and meet them in Chicago. Which I did.
That's something that would never happen now. In those days there was such an importance put on videos that record companies would actually fly [directors] out to meet a band. So I flew to Chicago to meet them.
I suppose Gwen wanted to work with me because she saw the videos I'd made, so she basically picked me. So I felt safe in that they obviously liked the sort of video I would make, and I didn't have to prove myself or anything, so I just had to get an idea.
Within about the first hour of meeting them it was almost like I knew everything about them, it was so intense.
I remember Gwen came to my hotel room, she was all sparkly — remember when she used to wear the jewels around her eyes? She used to wear diamonds underneath her eyes, and I remember thinking, “Whoa.” She was wearing yellow punk pants and she was all bright and sparkly. She was very charming, and really excited and sweet.
Basically what was going on was this full drama with the band. They'd been a struggling band for years, [and when Tragic Kingdom came out] suddenly they got all this attention. Of course, Gwen was an extraordinary artist so she was getting most of that attention.
So basically there was this big drama going on in the band; Gwen was getting all the attention and the band didn't like it and it was causing huge problems for them and it was really embarrassing for Gwen because it wasn't like she asked for it, it just happened. And I walked in right into this whirlwind.
I remember thinking they were amazing live, they had this great energy and really exciting and cartoonish, but punky, and they spit all the time on stage. I remember thinking it was so weird. But they were all really nice, and they all wanted to make a good video.
So we were talking about ideas the next day. Gwen had a sore throat so she couldn't talk and I went to breakfast with the rest of the band. Tom then said, “Why don't we just make the video about the breakup of the band instead of the breakup of Tony and Gwen's relationship?”
It was a great idea. All those scenes in the video — that all happened. Spin did a photo shoot with the band and cropped the boys all out and just used Gwen. So it's all real, it's real emotion. Those things were happening at the time and it was all happening so quick. They were trying to find their feet as a band in a new arena — which was world fame –instead of being in Orange County trying to get a show and trying to get arrested, basically.
I've always said that in a sense, in a band, you've got a Shakesperean set up. There's always some huge drama going on, otherwise they're not an interesting band. I suppose I've always looked for that, because if you're making a piece of film with four characters the most interesting is what's going on between the four of them. I've never met a band that was so open to it, though. “Don't Speak” was a natural thing for me to do as a biographical video– and then we just carried on [making videos that mirrored life] because they're so open. I never tire of that dynamic between them, and Gwen writes very autobiographical lyrics so it was always “Let's face head on what this song is about,” instead of making it about something else.
I don't know if that's true that I'm the closest thing to a biographer. I've made a lot of videos for them over a long stretch of time and I know them all very well.
Of all my videos, I suppose “Sunday Morning” is the most like them. It's the most honest — where they all hang out together, that feels very real to me. They all get on and they're very good friends and have very different lives. When I met them some of them were still living with their parents! (Well, some of them.) They hang on to each other in the sense of that when they got huge across the world, there was already a sense of family between them.